Game of Thrones: The Night Lands

I was kind of disappointed in “The Night Lands”, this week’s episode of Game of Thrones. It wasn’t exactly a BAD episode, but if felt like a let down after such a stellar season premiere. For one brief moment I thought titillation might finally take a back seat to storytelling, but this episode was the worst offender yet! More on pointless nudity later, but first let’s break down the various plotlines:

King’s Landing

In the wake of some very, very poor decision-making on the part of Cersei and Joffrey, Tyrion starts throwing his weight around in King’s Landing. And for someone so slight, he’s making every pound count!

The brutal slaughtering of Robert’s bastards, particularly the tiny babies, did not go over well with the populace and Tyrion can feel the mood shifting in the city. Cersei couldn’t care less about the opinions of the smelly, unwashed masses, but Tyrion implores her to smarten up or face rebellion He quickly realizes that the citizens aren’t the only people Cersei is losing control over. She tries to hide it, but Tyrion picks up on the fact that the kill orders didn’t come from her. Joffrey was behind the extreme violence and didn’t even inform his mother before he gave the orders.

Tyrion invites the city watch commander Janos Slynt to dinner and, in a brilliant bait-and-switch, butters him up before stripping him of his title. He banishes Janos to the Night’s Watch – not just for his role in ‘baby-gate’ but because he’s an untrustworthy snake who took Ned Stark’s coin and then turned on him for a higher fee. Who’s to say he won’t switch loyalties if a new benefactor comes along?

The timing is actually quite perfect because the Night’s Watch has sent a letter begging King’s Landing for more men. The entire small council laughs off their request and their dire warnings (“Cold winds are rising and the dead rise with them”). But Tyrion respects the Wall, and the men who defend it. He’s not sure if he believes in walking corpses, but doesn’t treat it like a joke.

That’s one of the things I love about Tyrion – he’s not exactly a man of honour, but he does follow his own moral code that makes sense within the confines of his world. He’s smarter than Ned Stark, who blindly stuck to what was ‘right’ even if it led to death and destruction. Tyrion will do underhanded and unethical things to protect his family and his own comfortable lifestyle – but he never dismisses other people the way Cersei and Tywin do. Even though Ned spoke up against his family, Tyrion made a point of telling Sansa he was sorry for her loss and acknowledged Ned as someone she loved. He respects the Night’s Watch because they are passionate and devoted to what they do, even if he would never do it himself. He would abhor a life among the peasants, but that doesn’t mean he disregards them as humans. So many people in this story have very narrow views of the world, but Tyrion can actually see the big picture.

The Road to the Night’s Watch

Arya, my favourite feisty little girl, is making her way to the Night’s Watch with Gendry and a rag tag group of paupers and criminals. When a pair of knights stops their party, Arya hides in a panic, but they’re not hip to her gender-bending disguise. They’re only searching for Gendry so they can check him off their dead bastards list. Yoren (the officer leading the party, for those who don’t remember) protects Gendry’s identity, strips the knights of their swords and declares that all men with him belong to the Night’s Watch!

Arya peppers Gendry with questions about his ‘most-wanted’ status, but Gendry has no idea why he’s such a hot property. He is, however, much smarter than the rest of their travel companions and calls ‘Arry’ on his/her female parts.

Arya: “I’m not a girl!”
Gendry: “Yeah, well pull your cock out and take a piss then”.

No chance of that happening – so Arya fesses up and swears him to silence. But boy is he embarrassed when he discovers that she’s not only a girl, she’s a highborn LADY! And there he was joking about cocks and everything. Arya clocks him for calling her m’lady. These two have nice comic chemistry. I hope we get a few more light-hearted scenes between them before things inevitably turn dark.

The Pyke

Oh Theon Greyjoy … SIGH. How you irk me to my very core! But I guess that’s kind of your lot in this show, eh? Theon returns home to the Iron Islands all decked out in his finest clothes, expecting a lavish party and trumpets heralding his return. After all, he is Lord Balon’s only living heir, which makes him totally hot shit! Instead, his ship pulls up to a deserted dock and his only greeting is from a haggard old ship monger who’s never even heard of him. But at least he gets a ride to the castle with a buxom maiden who lets him cop a feel.

Too bad things pretty much go downhill from there. His father, Balon, doesn’t exactly welcome him with open arms. He mocks Theon for his fancy clothes and rips a gold pendant off his cloak, “Was it Ned Stark’s pleasure to make you his daughter?” Ouch. Oh and speaking of daughters, you remember your sister, don’t you Theon? No? Well meet Yara – you should at least recall sticking your hand down her pants on the ride over here. Oh dear.

Balon burns Robb Stark’s alliance proposal and declares he’ll join this war on his own terms – fighting AGAINST the ‘King in the North’. “No man gives me a crown. I pay the iron price.” As one final slap in the face to Theon, he appoints Yara commander of his fleet.

Across the Narrow Sea

Dany’s Khalasar is deteriorating quickly, wasting away without food and water. In a state of utter exhaustion, she spots a returning horse in the distance and stumbles towards it … only to discover that it is riderless. Inside a bag tied to the saddle, she finds the severed head of Rakaro … blood of her blood. The other khalasars are sending her a message. She regains some of her strength and swears vengeance upon the perpetrators.

I love Dany, but I feel like the writers are trying to include her in every episode because she’s a fan favourite and not because they’re actually advancing her plot. And it’s difficult because grueling, endless journeys can work beautifully on paper but are usually really boring on screen. Sam and Frodo stumbling around Mordor anyone? It’s been a while since I read the second book, but SPOILER – I feel like not a lot really happens to her in it. I’d rather the writers use her sparingly instead of forcing us to watch her putter around.


Stannis is still pondering his next move – crippled by his lack of men. His right-hand man, Davos Seaworth, convinces the pirate Salladhor Saan to lend his forces but it still won’t be enough to take King’s Landing. Stannis needs the men who have deserted him in favour of his younger brother.

Stannis frets over his battle maps while Melisandre coos that she’s already seen victory in flames. He could see it too, if he would just let the Lord of Light into his heart … and put his penis in her vagina. I hate to get graphic here folks, but HBO totally started it! Plus, I’m not exaggerating. That’s exactly what happened.

Beyond the Wall

Despite Craster’s numerous warnings, Sam still strikes up a conversation with one of his frightened young wives, Gilly, after rescuing her from Ghost. She is terrified because she’s about to give birth to the next generation of daughter/wives … unless her baby happens to be a boy. Baaaad things happen to baby boys in Craster’s household.

They approach Jon Snow with a risky plan to sneak Gilly away from Craster and take her with them. Jon steadfastly refuses and cites Lord Mormont’s explicit orders.

Later that night, Jon is awoken by a strange noise and follows Craster as he sneaks off into the forest and leaves baby boy as an offering to a hulking monster. Craster discovers Jon watching and knocks him unconscious.

Sex and Violence

Okay here we go … SIGH.

On the violence score, this episode was fine – nothing over the top or unwarranted. But on the sex score? It was a non-stop nudie film.

– Littlefinger spied sex acts through a keyhole in his brothel and then had a lengthy conversation with a sad whore, quietly threatening her for not performing. I can’t imagine why this was necessary. Even if we needed the scene between Littlefinger and his prostitute (which I don’t think we did at all. I feel like every episode we’re having some interaction in his brothel, which did not happen in the books and doesn’t advance important characters so why are we going there?) we didn’t need to see him play peeping Tom earlier.

– Theon Greyjoy plowed a maiden on his ship before he arrived on the Iron Island, while she giggled and tried to convince him to make her his permanent sex slave. I do remember this scene from the books, and it does demonstrate Theon’s ravenous nature and disregard for women but they’ve already established that in the show and the scene had no impact on the rest of the episode.

– Theon fondles his sister’s breasts and then shoves his hands down her pants … you know, BEFORE he found out they were related. This was necessary to embarrass him and establish Yara’s mocking dominance, but it wasn’t nearly as graphic in the books and I felt like they took it further to increase the ‘shock’ factor.

– And then we come to Stannis and Melisandre’s sex romp, the scene that really infuriated me. In the books, there is definitely a relationship between them, but their connection is very secretive. It all happens behind closed doors and we don’t really understand the pull she has over him. I just think this scene was way too blatant and far too out of character for Stannis. It was cheap and tawdry and turned Melisandre into a common whore rather than an enchanting, dangerous seductress.

It probably seems like I’m a terrible prude and yes, I am a little guilty of that, but the sex just felt never-ending in this episode. One or two of these scenes wouldn’t make me bat an eye, but combined they are thoroughly eye rolling. Any validity they each have is overshadowed by the overall excessiveness. Other HBO shows can devolve into pure porn because they had no substance to begin with (I’m talking to you True Blood!). But Game of Thrones is better than that and I expect a less obvious form of storytelling.

Favourite Scenes

The scene between Cersei and Tyrion after he berated her for the baby-killing incident was really well done. Tyrion is quipping as usual, when she turns to him and says, “You’re funny, you’ve always been funny. But none of your jokes will ever match the first one, will they”? The very fact that he lived – a deformed creature – after he killed their mother in childbirth. “There’s no bigger joke in the world than that.” As much as I love Tyrion in the show I feel like he’s a little too cool sometimes. The Tyrion in the books was just as clever, but seemed more damaged because he was supposed to be uglier and more reviled by society. Cersei’s comments were a nice reminder of his outcast status.

Every Tyrion scene in this episode was fabulous though. I LOVED watching him toy with poor Janos and then move in for the kill!

Favourite Quotes

Cersei: (complaining about responsibility) “It all fell on me.”
Tyrion: “As has Jamie repeatedly, according to Stannis Baratheon.”

Tyrion: “I’m not questioning your honor Janos. I’m denying its existence.”

After Salladhor says he wants to fuck Queen Cersei if they take King’s Landing
Matthos Seaworth :“We’re not attacking King’s Landing so that you can rape the Queen.”
Salladhor: “I’m not going to rape her, I’m going to fuck her.”
Matthos: “As if she would just let you.”
Salladhor: “You don’t know how persuasive I am.”

Photo Courtesy of HBO

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